This year has seen a bumper olive harvest. The trees were laden with so many olives that sometimes they looked like bunches of grapes. To those of you who have never picked olives and imagine it’s living the dream – it’s not. But having said that, the first two weeks, with help from friends, the sun shining and the trees of a reasonable height then yes, it is magical. But it’s not so great by the time you get into week four. The friends have gone home and you’re left with a hardened core of pickers. The weather has cooled as much as the enthusiasm, only the big trees are left to pick and each one taking up to two and a half hours with four people picking. One tree yielded 140 kilos…Amazing. Not as much as this one though – largest olive tree in Italy . The Man thought there was a bigger one in Sicily, but I can’t find that. If you know about it please tell us.
Don’t ever ask The Man to cut your hair – if the way he prunes an olive tree is anything to go by then you would be lucky to be left with a strand or two.
From the lips of the local farmers, there’s a great deal of advice about planting, pruning, picking and pressing olives. It’s always contradictory advice too, one man telling you one thing and his friend/wife disagreeing. We’ve listened to it all, The Man and I. We’ve read books and researched the Internet, basically you end up doing your own thing and for us that can’t have been bad because – friends and family, we’ve picked tons of olives (3 tons in fact) and consequently many litres of oil this year. It is certainly worth the hard work. I have never tasted any oil so delicious as the freshly pressed virgin oil from the newly picked organic olives. We’re not registered organic but the trees are not treated in anyway. They grow and flourish, only by drawing nourishment from the rain and sun… and a bit of love of course.
Before I came to Italy I had no idea that olive oil could be so good. It’s labour intensive to harvest and as The Man always points out, when you buy olive oil from the supermarkets for under €10 a litre then it cannot be good stuff. There has been much controversy in the press about big oil companies cheating and mixing the oil but I don’t know enough to go into all that here. All I know for certain is that our olive oil is wonderful.
Olivespastavino will be going to England in the New Year so if you’re good to me and I bump into you, then maybe you’ll get a drop or two.
By the way, there’s a great deal of talking goes on around each tree during picking and I’m tempted to make notes or record the conversations because they are so diverse. Subjects range from basic recipes, shopping, best and worst restaurants, expats you love or hate, religion, politics, healthcare in Italy v other countries, tax systems… I could go on forever and so did some of the discussions. I’ve taken to sitting on a box while I lovingly strip the olives from the branches either with a rake or my gloved hands listening with interest to those declaiming and joining in as and when I can – I’m not so good in the sport category but streets ahead in the useless bits of information section.